The “laissez-faire” lifestyle of Namilyango College Must have started at about 2:00 a.m on a ghost-quiet, winter cold morning in 1967 when Fr Kuipers, doing his occasional night scouting of the vast college premises, spotted someone in class. This was against the regulations of the college. This was his opportunity to flex his athletic muscles in serving out disciplinary action. The student, Peregrine Kibuuka, knew this the moment he saw Fr. Kuipers at the door. He had other plans. He put the father at ransom; he would only leave the class if the Father retreated to a safe distance enough to minimize contact and impact.
In 1986, Dr. Peregrine became the Headmaster of the college. He was a man who became reputed for justice, a quick wit, goof humor, and remarkable leadership. “If I found a student wrestling a Teacher during after hours, I would not interfere with them; I would pass and mind my business because the matter had not reached me yet.” He said. Even the sports he enjoyed were those where a net separated him from his opponent so that if the opponent got angry, there was still a net between them.
Students past and present concur that he is arguably one of the finest headteachers to serve at the College, building a legacy etched in many Ngonian minds, who have kept him alive through transmitting the story of his leadership. With a background like this, we set out to meet this embodiment of reputation. We found Doctor (Ph.D.) (as he is affectionately known) seated in his car, patiently awaiting our arrival. He was dressed in a checkered shirt, with his blazer comfortably laced over his seat. He stepped out of the green Prado. Age had seemingly taken a toll on his body, but his spirit radiated youth. He pulled his coat over his shoulders and stood upright, assuming a posture that reflected why he commanded so much respect with very few words. He walked towards us, taking calculated strides with a very gentlemanly gait in each step. He then shook our hands, each handshake accompanied by a deep studying look glaring from behind his spectacles, and soon, we were able to know each other well. What we were more aware of then, was that we were in the presence of a very great man.
Dr. Kibuuka came first to Namilyango College as an A-level student from Nyenga Seminary in September 1966, during the reign of Father Kuipers. Within just three months, he had started working his magic. “I did S5 for only 3 months. I asked Fr Kuipers to let me go to s6, and if I failed I would repeat the exams. I made it and did my A level in 1 year and 3 months” he recalls. He was a sportsman, as many Namilyango students are, with a penchant for lawn tennis, table tennis, and volleyball, which he excelled in. The explanation for his liking for the three sports is as mirthful as it is true. “I played games where my opponent was separated from me by a net so that when he lost his temper there was still a net between us,” he said, laughing cheerfully. Tennis remained embedded in Kibuuka’s lifestyle, continuing to play as a teacher in Ndejje SS, and even building the tennis courts there. However, when the advent of time-consuming administrative duties came upon him, he gave up the sport. Kibuuka continued to have a merry stay at the college, enjoying memorable socials with Nabbingo and Gayaza.
I played games where my opponent was separated from me by a net so that when he lost his temper there was still a net between usDr.Kibuuka recalls his Namilyango College sporting moments
His journey to teaching began, with its roots anchored deep in the college. His inspiration came right from the advice of a fellow student while at school. “To say that you were going to teach was not fashionable. Being an elitist school, the students were expected to be engineers, doctors, or lawyers. It was okay for other people’s children to teach you, but not you to teach” Kibuuka narrated. He had originally aspired to do SWASA or Political Science, the courses studied to become an administrator like a DC (District Commissioner), but that was when the friendly advice came in handy.
“I had a friend who told me that when you become a DC and a minister visits a village, you are the one to look for a woman for him to sleep with. “He asked me if that is what I wanted to do, and I said no” he added, with a strong display of disapproving hand signals. The friend then enlightened him, saying that since Uganda had just gotten independence, the ‘bazungus’ would phase out and when they did, there would be unlimited demand for teachers of English. Doctor was good at Latin, and from his observation, good Latin makes English easy. He then went on to Makerere University, graduating with specialization in Literature and English. It is here that we understood why his replies were punctuated with quotes from; Thomas Hardy, Elechi Amadi, and many other authors.
Doctor’s hands never lay down thereafter. He started soon on the writing of his book “Habbakuk, The Catechist” which was published recently in 2010. When he met the Cardinal after the publication, the clergyman asked him how he began to write. Kibuuka, with a little humor, recalls his answer vividly; he said. “I told him that you start writing by starting to write”. His entire body shook with mirth, and his face wore the look of a satisfied man.
Joining as Headmaster from St. Kalemba S. S. in Nazigo, he faced a “baptism by fire”. Immediately, he faced some of his biggest challenges: the teachers he found called him rural and a villager because of his complete and almost unapologetically full and loud laughter. It also became apparent that some did not like him. This is what he had to say; “I laughed at them doubly, because I was an old boy and a teacher and had been to Namilyango before them” he said with the complete (and almost liberating) laughter.
In 1989, shortly after assuming office, the teachers attempted a strike to oust him and even accused him of beating a deputy. He was summoned to the IGG on the latter count, and the deputy was proved wrong. That was a turning point. The preamble, like frothy foam on top of the beer, it was now time for work.
He believed in the leadership process of acquisition, consolidation, and administering.
“After that bloody ordeal, I consolidated power and then went on to administer,” he said.
He then crept into the hearts of the students. They cherished him. His rules were few. Zero tolerance to bullying, theft, and escaping. The rest were regulations; we smiled like a ‘fumbler’ who is very familiar with this model would.
His mode of solving bullying was simple: in a closed-door meeting between the victim (bullied) and aggressor, he would put the fate of the aggressor (Suspension letter) in the hands of the victim, and then ask him to decide. If he handed the letter to the bully, the bully would go for suspension. However, in tearing the letter, the bully was forgiven.
This was a power play. Dr.Kibuuka made sure that the aggressor was put “in a corner” so that he is truly penitent. The Dr. would then “ask” the bullied to forgive. With a mischievous smile upon his face, he said that his request was actually a command to the victim, “the request of a king is a command”. The approach always worked and they would turn out to be friends after, with the bully now a sworn protector of the victim. It was only in one incident that the victim did not forgive, and when the other students caught wind of this, the boy was ostracized so much that his stay at college became unfortunately unbearable. He soon left Namilyango College.
He was a loved headmaster so much that when he left the college briefly for the US, the students went on strike against the deputy and other teachers; they were unmanageable. Calm was only restored when he returned. “Students would hear me coming on the stairs and there would be law and order. People respected me, liked me, and obeyed me” he said happily. Doctor was one determined and strong-minded man.
You know this is no fairy tale though: One time, in 1992, for an unknown reason, students beat one other student who later died. The world was quick to label Ngonians (Namilyango college students) murderers. Other schools disassociated themselves from the school, an example was a refusal of the Social dance (Sosh) with Namagunga that year. Life is about accepting the challenges along the way and choosing to keep moving forward. This is one of the biggest challenges he faced.
“I called the boys and told them that since we would have no dance, we had to work hard and disprove everyone else. I asked them to get marks so that I would re-admit them without them having to bring their parents” he mentioned. Namilyango went on to excel that year. “I re-admitted my students, and the ministry complained that I had rejected the ones they sent. But I stuck to my guns, and I told them that other schools did not want to take my boys, calling them murderers. So I stuck with them”. He laughed defiantly.
Dr.Peregrine Kibuuka is renowned for many changes at the school. Among them is the current Namilyango branding; the identity from the emblem in the badge, neckties, and sweaters. Many former students who were under him testify to his enjoyable assembly speeches, and can still quote him today.
Speaking about the present NACOBA (Namilyango Old Boys’ Association), Dr, at the time of this encounter with us, says that it is more active, cohesive and hails it as a federation. “I don’t know how you have done it, because you seem to be compartmentalized into years but when the whole thing comes together, it is very powerful” he noted. He also thanked NACOBA wholeheartedly for coming to his rescue when he was battling with his health at the time.
Dr. Kibuuka left the college in 2001, moving on to new beginnings. He however does not forget the school in any way. “As you can see, the best part of my career was at Namilyango. I couldn’t do better than that. I was fully satisfied, I enjoyed serving the students and even personally, I improved on my qualifications” he said conclusively.
George Ephraim Omoding